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Between Disaffection and Indifference: Studying the Euro’s Politicisation using Focus Groups

Euro
Austerity
Narratives
Joris Melman
Universitetet i Oslo
Joris Melman
Universitetet i Oslo
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Abstract

While the Euro has increasingly come to be contested as an undemocratic straightjacket, it at the same time is argued to be more and more bound up with the future of European integration. Being increasingly politicized at the governmental level, it has come to be questioned whether there is enough political will for its maintenance. However, while this concern has led most analysts to make sense of the Euro’s legitimacy by studying elites or media debates, it most fundamentally is the citizen level that constitutes the ground for its legitimacy. Both in a normative and a functional sense, it is the public that can be seen as the ‘glue’ holding the monetary union together (e.g. Jonung, 2002). Following this observation, this paper investigates public opinion on the Euro. Going beyond the plain mapping of citizen attitudes, it holds that we can only fully grasp it when we know how citizens understand the Euro, with what political consequences they relate it, and on the basis of which norms they reason about such consequences. In doing so, this study also aims to address a paradox in the literature on public opinion. For while the analyses of most academics, journalists and politicians assume that citizens are increasingly disaffected with politics – being a consequence of either decreasing democratic choice, economic hardship or identitarian tensions – citizens are at the same time supposed to be increasingly indifferent. Given such a context, to what extent are citizens able to reason about the Euro in the first place? And to the extent that they are, how do they do so?